From the Sidelines: Finding familiar things in unexpected places

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 27, 2008

While sitting in my office in the marketing department of Baptist Health in Montgomery a little over a month ago, I received an e-mail from someone identifying herself as the managing editor of The Demopolis Times. She reported coming across the resume I had weeks before posted on and wanted to know if I would be interested in interviewing for the soon-to-be vacant sports editor position with her paper.

To be perfectly honest, I had scarcely heard of Demopolis and struggled to find a sincere desire to interview for the position. But, for reasons then unknown to me, I agreed to do so. After a fairly lengthy phone interview with Gennie, I found myself with only a moderately increased interest. However, for reasons again unknown to me at the time, I agreed to make the two-hour trek to Demopolis for a face-to-face interview.

Let there be no mistake regarding my stance at the time, I had virtually no doubt I would decline the position if it were offered to me. After all, I had so many reasons not to leave Montgomery. I was near my family. I had a strong relationship with the church in which I was a member. I had that handful of close friends that takes years to develop and had fostered a closeness with my co-workers that made leaving them almost inconceivable. Still, taking the interview would at least give me a much-needed day away from everything. So to Demopolis I headed.

Email newsletter signup

Upon my visit, I came across the last thing I expected. I found a town slight in size but big on heart. I saw a place with much more charm than pretense. Moreover, I met the majority of a newspaper staff which seemed to really enjoy not only what they do, but also where they do it.

But being the stubborn individual I have been for the bulk of my 26 years, I was not yet convinced accepting any offer I may receive would be the right move.

So I returned to Montgomery. I returned to Baptist Health, to my family, my congregation, my friends and to my comfort zone. There is a lot to be said for that kind of comfort. Nonetheless, I was still plagued by the relentless nagging that regardless of how much I enjoyed everything else in my life, I still did not find satisfaction in my work. I had known for years sports writing was the one thing I wanted to do.

So I did the only thing I have ever found to be effective when I reach such an impasse. I prayed. I prayed a lot.

A few days later, I received the phone call from Gennie I had been dreading. Part of me was hoping she would tell me the paper had found someone else for the position. That would have made my decision much easier. That would have prevented me from having to choose between that which was familiar and that for which I had longed to do. But life doesn&8217;t really work that way. As suspected, Gennie complicated things by offering me the position.

The fact you are reading this column provides more than just a little indication as to which step I decided to take. But the fact that you are reading this column is also a strong indicator of why I decided to take that step.

I have long heard of how newspapers are fading away and will be replaced entirely by online media, a prospect in which I have refused to totally place my faith.

I believe getting the daily paper from the lawn, the mailbox or the nearest rack along your morning route is valuable to you. I believe there is a charm in it that is indicative of small-town America. So while Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago and all of the other big cities around the country may be too busy to pick up the daily, they do not represent the majority of America. Demopolis does.

Demopolis appears to me to be a community that values the simple things and recognizes that values are no simple thing. It treasures its sports because they are played by its children and, perhaps more than anything, Demopolis cherishes its children.

So while I initially had little intention of coming to a place with which I was not familiar, I have found in it the same familiar things on which my parents had taught me to place significance.

So thank you for welcoming me to Demopolis with such hospitality. Thank you for taking the time to read a little about me, and trust that I will take great joy in writing about you and your most precious commodity, your children.

Jeremy D. Smith is the sports editor of The Demopolis Times. He can be reached by e-mail to